Yesterday I witnessed something that I never thought I’d see in our mild-mannered Paducah. Two ladies, driving two separate cars in the drive-through lane, busted out in a version of road rage rarely seen in these parts. The woman in front appeared to be in no hurry whatsoever (toying with her cell phone to be precise), while the woman behind her was ready to be served, and now. What happened next involved fury, profanity, honking, screaming, serious hand gestures, and seriously dangerous driving. I saw and heard the whole thing. Driver A seemed frozen in fear. Driver B seemed like a public threat.
It hit me. We’re messed up. Not only is Paducah messed up, but the human race is messed up. The depraved nature which we inherited from Adam is hard to handle in and of itself, and a pandemic has been just enough to push lots of people to the breaking point. If an entire society can be on edge, we’re that society. Relatively minor interpersonal infractions can morph quickly into major and volatile meltdowns. (I now need more than one hand to count the examples I’ve personally witnessed.)
But back to the parking lot. In all honesty, friends, as I waited for my own food, I felt a little frozen myself. (And I’m not talking about the temperature or the frappe.) Even after all these years in pastoral ministry, I find it downright unsettling when I see people melt down, for whatever reason. It’s a reminder that I’m not home yet, and I don’t like it at all. Like C.S. Lewis, the deeper griefs of this life make me long for another world.
Then it hit me. Really, this time. From my Spotify playlist, which I play loudly (when I’m alone) for full effect … Kari Jobe … “It’s time for the dead man to rise. It’s time for the Great Light to shine. I hear the Spirit say, ‘It’s time.’ Fling wide, you heavenly gates! Let the King of glory in! Let the King of glory in!”
You may recognize the origin of those lyrics. I assume they come from Psalm 24, and from the songbook of our God: Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!
Could the Bible really be saying that the God who created the universe wants to come get in our messes with us? That’s a bit hard for us to believe.
The early church, just like the Israelites before them and just like the church today, struggled in a world that was filled with all kinds of false doctrines. One of the most influential and dangerous of those faux truths was Gnosticism, which was a blend of Christian, Jewish, Egyptian, and Persian ideas – topped off with a meringue of Greek philosophy. Anyway, for the people who came under the influence of Gnosticism, the incarnation of Christ – in many ways the heart of the Christian message – would have been viewed as nothing short of scandalous. This is because the Gnostics viewed the natural world as purely evil, and as something to be avoided or escaped from – so God would never choose to take on human flesh and blood. He would never walk among us – let alone come near one of our many meltdowns. That would be beneath God, you see. God would never get close enough to identify with our lowliness, or to feel the sting of our sadness, or to die under the weight of our sin.
God certainly would never meet us in a drive-through lane.
Yet this psalm is so powerful precisely because it reminds us that – no matter how painful it gets here – the God who created us longs to come right on in! The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. I would go as far as saying that you and I are commanded to open up the doors and the gates of our lives – regardless of how heavy they may feel – and to stand upon God’s promise that He will invade whatever situation we’re in with the grace which we so desperately need. Pandemic schmandemic. You can quote me on that. Our doors may feel impossible to open, but that’s because we’ve forgotten how awesome and powerful is the King of glory! We have forgotten the power of His Word and the power of His blood.
And here’s the really hard truth: my heart is just as unreliable as that of the crazed woman with the fish filet. My emotions can be just as unhinged. My behavior can be just as unbecoming. Make no mistake about it, y’all, I’m razor-thin close to a respectable rage myself. And – get real for just a minute – so are you. There is only One who can soften hearts as hard as ours. But the more-than-able King has come! His name is Jesus, and He’s right here! What the world needs now has come!
“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). He is who I need. Seriously, I need Jesus just as much as any road rager out there. Perhaps even more.
And so I thought about it. And then I thunk some more. And I found joy. Right there, under the golden arches, I found joy. Really big joy. So that’s what I pray for you today.
Let the King of glory in!